SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 31, 2013

A place to sip and paint

Wicked Art Bar studio makes art accessible

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — You can’t blame someone who works with entrepreneurs all day for wanting to start a creative new business.

Renee Gannon, the director of marketing for the Enterprise Center at Salem State University, and her friend, Alexandra Terista of Danvers, are co-founders of Wicked Art Bar, where patrons can enjoy a glass of wine while learning how to paint.

“It’s part technique and part fun,” Gannon said of the painting sessions, which do not require any art skills to participate.

For $35, an instructor will guide you through a two-and-a-half-hour painting session. Everyone paints the same image, and all materials are included. The sessions are held at Wicked Art Bar or at a partner venue on the North Shore.

The business opened earlier this month on the ground floor of the Studios at Porter Mill, at 95 Rantoul St. Nearly 50 artists have studios there, and their work is on display at a gallery next door to the art bar. Gannon said the neighborhood appears to be on the rise with a new commuter rail parking garage being built across the street and a large apartment building under construction right outside Wicked Art Bar’s windows.

“We met a lot of the neighbors. People have stopped in and said they are excited we are here, ‘We can’t wait to try it out,’” Gannon said.

Wicked Art Bar looks more like an art school than a bar, with stools and easels lining the space. A bar lines the wall as you walk in.

On July 11, the establishment won a seasonal beer and wine license from the city, the first such seasonal license issued to a business in six years, Gannon said. The license still needs state approval, and Gannon hopes to be fully up and running by September.

In the meantime, the art bar is using space at other establishments on the North Shore to host paint-and-sip events. The first one, which was sold out, took place at the Village Tavern in Salem. They have also hosted a bachelorette party and a regular class session, which drew about a dozen paint-and-sippers.

Kids’ parties, with no alcohol served, can also be booked at Wicked Art Bar.

Gannon, who lives in Lynn, graduated from Beverly High in 2001 and met Terista while at the University of New Hampshire, where both played on the women’s rugby team. Gannon was studying zoology, and Terista was studying biology.

“We both kind of loved to do art as a passion,” Gannon said. “I’ve just always been a creative person; my parents were very encouraging of creativity.”

After graduating in 2004, Terista enlisted in the Navy and earned a commission as a surface warfare officer, a job that took her all over the world. She came back to the North Shore last year.

Gannon’s previous work experience has taken her from Boston to Los Angeles and back to the North Shore. But it was her position as website editor for a start-up frozen baby food company that steered her toward a career in marketing and graphic design.

“That kind of set me off on my creative path, and I found I had a knack for it, too,” Gannon said.

She said she liked being around startups and found she had an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2007, she started Lesbiatopia, a lesbian-interest blog, which a year later was nominated for the best GLBT Weblog Award.

Gannon moved back to New England in 2010 and after a stint working in social media marketing for a new restaurant concept by Uno Chicago Grill, she landed the director of marketing job at the Enterprise Center. Gannon works full time for the nonprofit small-business incubator and is also vice president of Young Entrepreneurs of the North Shore, a nonprofit she helped launch.

Terista, now in the Navy Reserves, moved back to Danvers last year, and the two began mulling ideas for their own business. Terista wound up at a sip-and-paint studio in South Boston, and they decided to open one on the North Shore.

“We just put a business plan together, approached banks for funding,” said Gannon, who said the business is now self-funded.

“I think all the entrepreneurial spirit took hold,” said Christine Sullivan, the CEO of the Enterprise Center. “It’s wonderful. What gives me great pleasure in life is to see people grow, and I see it in the entrepreneurs at the center.”

Sullivan said Gannon “caught the entrepreneurial bug.”

“I think the art bar is a wonderful idea and I want to go myself,” Sullivan said.

About Wicked Art Bar’s bar

The bar in Wicked Art Bar has a wicked story behind it. Using all reclaimed materials to stick with the aesthetic of the building, it was created by friend Tim Thurrott, a craftsman who lives in Lynn, Gannon said in an email.

“(Thurrott) used 200-year-old barn beams in the construction of the main part of the bar. A few of the steel hooks (for hanging a bag on) came from an old mechanic shop in Salem (Mass.). Some of the other metal accents came from a lobster warehouse in Revere. The reclaimed butcher block top were once student desks at Harvard University, and the main beam framing was once part of wood frames used for shipping sections of bridges and other industrial steel and concrete structures.”

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.